Mat vs Shadow Box when framing photography

FrameDrew

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Hey All,

I'm opening an art gallery and trying to decide whether to frame our fine art photography with a mat, or in a shadow box. I was curious if there is a preference in the industry now? I know it's tough to see the difference when not in person, but I attached an example of the same photograph framed with a mat (left), and then in a shadow box (right). Any strong opinions here, or clarity on what the industry/consumer/artist prefers? Thanks!

(Mat) Mat.jpeg (Shadow Box) Shadow Box.jpeg
 

Ylva

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In the shadowbox, how is the glass being kept away from the photo?

Doing mat and frame is probably more cost effective and also better for conservation purposes. Seeing how slight the difference is, I would go with the matted version

I would make the mats a bit wider though
 

Nikodeumus

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Personally, with a flat image and a simple white matt & frame, I don't see the point of the shadowbox.
Most people view their art face-on, so a deeper frame doesn't really accomplish anything for a flat image, IMO.
I would go with the frame on the left but perhaps make the matt wider.
If the goal of the shadowbox is to give an impression of a more "impressive" display than the "regular" frame, then I would go with a wider profile rather than a taller one.
Just my 2 cents. I have no art gallery or interior design training. I could be completely off base.
I build frames to my customer's wishes. The design pictured is usually what people who use the phrase"I don't want the frame to take away from the art" end up doing.

Great image BTW, I really like it.
 

Larry Peterson

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What everyone else said. Narrow mats were popular for about 5 minutes in the 70s.
 

RoboFramer

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What is "Fine art photography" anyway, and how would it differ to photography with no prefix?, bearing in mind that (at one time at least) the highest price paid for a photograph was something like 250,000 (GBP I think, but whatever) by Elton John; he just called it a photograph.

Both examples above look wrong to me, as to general design before even wondering about shadow box or not; the shadow box just makes it look even worse by casting .................................... a shadow.

I like the (fine art) photo a lot, but in either of those frame combos I have to fight past them to get to it. It could possibly be different for me if it was hung on a wall withoiut the surrounding distractions, but probably not much.

(Edit) "In 1993 Sir Elton bought a vintage print (there are 5 known variants) of Glass Tears by Man Ray for £112,000—at the time an auction record for a single photograph"

Less than I remembered but no "fine art" anyhow.
 
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osgood

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From a 'has been framer' I always reckon that a frame should 'HARMONISE' with the art, no matter what the art is! There doesn't seem to be any harmony with either frame!
I agree with others who have said that the shadow box does nothing positive for the photo!
Harmony, harmony, harmony, harmony, harmony, harmony!
 

Ylva

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If a customer would come into my shop with this, I would not immediately do the white mat/white frame combo as there are so many more ways to make this look absolutely stunning.

If you are trying to sell in bulk and need a common 'theme' the white on white is not a bad choice. It would need bigger mats. :)

I agree that the shadowbox does not appeal to me personally. I don't like the 'cast shadow' aspect.

I do a lot of white mat white frame, framing. I don't have to like it but it is in general not a horrible choice. Would I hang that in my own home? Nope.
 

alacrity8

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I'll be the first to stand up for the design.
Not because I like it, but because we are seeing it as the current norm in gallery showings.
White Frame, white mat. Various mat sizes. Tries not to distract from the art, while at the same time not enhancing the art at all.

I do tend to prefer a matted picture to a floated picture, unless there is a good reason for the float.
Something 3D about the art, or uneven edges that should be seen, are good reasons for the float.

If the "Shadowbox" style is a photo floated on mat, then the design you show is okay.
If the "Shadowbox" style you show has a wide white border that is showing, and it was mounted to a backer, then it should be fine.
If the "Shadowbox" style you show has a wide white border, and spacers holding the edges in place, there will likely be a problem in the future where the art will bulge in the middle.

Brian
 

Prospero

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The original purpose of matting was so that works on paper could be stored and handled safely. The aesthetic aspect
is secondary for the most part. Large public collections typically have 100000s of watercolors, etchings, engravings and
the like and never have all of them on display at once. They are stored away in drawers wrapped in tissue. Academics can
make arrangements to visit these hidden archives to examine the works, but if they were not matted they would very soon
be dogeared and damaged through careless handling. In a mat the art is not touched the window part can flipped up so the
whole sheet can be scrutinised.

Back in the 'real' world, items can be framed and displayed according to what they are.
If it looks good, it is good. 😊
Preservation considerations not withstanding..... 😉
 
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I'm a little nervous to put in my 2 cents because it's opposite of pretty much everyone else here...! lol
I do agree that if you're going to do a standard mat and frame, the mat borders would look nicer if they were a bit larger, HOWEVER, I actually really like the shadow boxed look in this case. I feel like the depth enhances the subject matter, giving a slightly more 3D effect to the architecture - like you still have to walk forward to approach the door. I think because of the white walled depth, additional mat border would not be necessary to maintain the affect and might even ruin it. Personally, I like the unexpected approach - it's a very uncommon. (I will second someone's statement that the photo will need to be mounted to a board in order to avoid the inevitable bulge that will occur over time without it.) All that said, I don't know that I'd like a shadow box on just any photograph... but I like it with this one.
 

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Sometimes I like to add depth inside the frame just to make the look a little more distinctive. Here are two ink drawings I did about 40 years ago. They are conventionally hinged and matted, but I thought setting them back in the frame a bit would draw the viewer in. These hang next to my desk at home.
:cool: Rick
IMG_0740.jpg
 

artfolio

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I agree with most of the replies to this thread but as regards shadow boxing 2 dimensional art it is a big no from me. I also have an intense dislike of white matts and frames and an even bigger dislike of seeing the two together. "White on White; try all night" as one white will almost always make the other look grey, yellow or dingy.

Enough extra depth can usually be added by simply using a double matt - for this image possibly a 5mm tan matt with something neutral like Crescent's Spice Ivory at least 80mm wide, (depending on the size of the image) and a mid brown timber frame.

As with any design the customer has the final say but I found than many needed a bit of guidance or they would default to the skinny white matt and square black frame they saw in Ikea or the bland white matt, limewashed or pine framing favoured by galleries.
 

Rick Granick

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If framing photos to sell, having a "gallery" feel might not be a bad strategy, as lots of people can relate to it, and it doesn't risk "clashing with their decor".
Looking at the examples in the original post again, I feel that the added depth seems to enhance the apparent depth of the rectangular elements in the photo, such as the door panels and that cabinet, which helps contrast them against the curvy forms of the bike. Just my perception.
:cool: Rick
 

monkframe

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I have to agree w/alacrity8 in that white frames are enjoying a surge in popularity. I've sold more of them in the last two years than in the previous twenty.

I usually mat and don't do a shadowbox effect with photos, but the exception is the art photo on deckled paper. The last one I did was a float on a contrasting gray matboard with 1/4" spacers and museum glass. Black frame as usual. Customer said it looked better than the gallery's demo piece.
 

wpfay

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White frame and mat started a revival some 15-20 years ago in urban galleries as an option to the uniform white mat/black frame. Maple and neutral color tones hardwoods, mostly grays, were in the mix.

The primary difference from what most of us are doing with that combo is that the originals were closed corner hardwood frames and the white paint had been custom blended to match certain mat colors.
Either acrylic or waterwhite glazing was used so there would be no color shift.
David at Vermont Hardwoods offers CC maple frames with opaque white finishes based on Rising mat boards (White and Warm White). He's not the only one.

IMHO, the white on white is only really successful when the above design path is followed. This provides a totally neutral surround for the art. There is no conflicting colors or designs brought in. The art stands by itself. Using that as my base, the idea of shadowboxing introduces an unnecessary design element, and distracts from the art.

I think Rick's observation is valid, but you are not going to have that kind of serendipitous syzygy with every piece of art you frame, and one of the goals of gallery showing is uniformity within each genre.

Also in agreement with all the voices suggesting a wider mat. The proportions used are a bit claustrophobic.
 

Rick Granick

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...you are not going to have that kind of serendipitous syzygy with every piece of art you frame...
When I looked up syzygy, most definitions had to do with astronomy, and the alignment of celestial bodies, and then there was this, which I liked because I have no idea what it means.
:icon11: Rick
Screen shot 2022-10-01 at 3.12.06 PM.png
 

wpfay

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When I looked up syzygy, most definitions had to do with astronomy, and the alignment of celestial bodies, and then there was this, which I liked because I have no idea what it means.
:icon11: Rick
View attachment 43501
Alluding to when the planets align, as in rarely, but I also liked saying "serendipitous syzygy".
 

clare

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I like the matted and framed over the shadowbox. I don't think that the mat width in the shadowbox is quite wide enough and the actual shadow detracts from the photo. I agree with others that the mat could be wider overall. Lovely photograph!

Best- clare
 

wpfay

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Did you like it as much as Jim likes saying, '......thrice-rinsed muslin....'? :popc:
The jury is out, I've only said serendipitous syzygy a couple times out loud, and then it was only to hear it...no context except in the referenced typed sentence. Jim has probably said "thrice rinsed muslin" in an amount that can be expressed best as an exponential factorial. I would imaging it was always in context as well.
-----------------------------------4
Something like 28!

It's the enjoyment of the sound of the word, and if it means something, all the better.
 
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CB Art & Framing

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How about, do 1 with an 8ply white matt/white frame combo as your “standard” framing package.
Then frame 3 or 4 other design combos as your “upsell” frame package.
This will prevent customers wanting to buy unframed prints, by giving them these options.
These can be used as examples for all your other images.
 

FrameDrew

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In the shadowbox, how is the glass being kept away from the photo?

Doing mat and frame is probably more cost effective and also better for conservation purposes. Seeing how slight the difference is, I would go with the matted version

I would make the mats a bit wider though
Thanks Ylva :). Spacers are keeping the glass away from the photo. They're home-made spacers (foamcore + white mat)
 

FrameDrew

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Thanks everyone for the help! I decided to let all the comments come in before getting back. This was very helpful. The biggest takeaway I'm seeing is use a wider border, and the mat over the shadow box tends to be the favorite (or at least more typical). I'm still grappling with the mat vs shadow box since a few photographers I work with are adamant about using the shadow box, especially with bigger pieces. I wonder if this is a new trend in the photography gallery world. So, I will mull it over a little more before our gallery opens. Thanks very much everyone, this was great feedback :).
 
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Ylva

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Another thing to make it 'different' would be a double mat in white, with the top one floating more (use with same foam spacers)

It might be that this is an upcoming trend, framing it in shadow box style, but I haven't had that request just yet, or seen it anywhere.

There is also no reason not to frame a few examples with different styles and have your customer pick what they like best.
 

FrameDrew

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Another thing to make it 'different' would be a double mat in white, with the top one floating more (use with same foam spacers)

It might be that this is an upcoming trend, framing it in shadow box style, but I haven't had that request just yet, or seen it anywhere.

There is also no reason not to frame a few examples with different styles and have your customer pick what they like best.
That's a good idea, and a cool technique. And, def a good idea to see a few options. Thanks Ylva!
 

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"White on White; try all night" as one white will almost always make the other look grey, yellow or dingy.
We offer 3 standard "white" moulding colors, which match Rising Polar White, Rising White and Rising Warm White mat boards just for this reason. We have also done Rising Natural and Rising Antique White on a custom basis.

Variations on White have been our #1 colors for over 5 years.
 

FrameDrew

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We offer 3 standard "white" moulding colors, which match Rising Polar White, Rising White and Rising Warm White mat boards just for this reason. We have also done Rising Natural and Rising Antique White on a custom basis.

Variations on White have been our #1 colors for over 5 years.
Thanks David, I'm going to take a look at them!
 

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I'm a bit late for this thread, but read all your comments. Always interesting to read how other framers do it.

I would say 9 out of 10 times I use a mat for photographs, not a shadow box. And often I don't use a mat at all for photos, just a thin aluminum frame and let the photograph go all the way the edges, to give it a sharp look, and not take any attention away from the photo itself.
Shadow boxes can however work wonders for 2D art, as Rick showed.

Here is an example of a shadow box framing I did recently. Oak frame and white wooden spacer.

The poster print already had the white borders as you see them, and I glued the poster to a backboard to make sure it wouldn't start to "wobble" over time.
The customer was very satisfied, and even sent me this photo from his home.

Nielsen2.jpg
 

wpfay

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Although...

Albeit, a literary device, allusive alliteration on alignment illustrates it isn't always illusive.
 

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You might want to also look at a dark piece. I don't know if this will happen, but with this reflective glazing, it's possible reflections would be more noticeable with a shadowbox. Maybe? Also, will you be shipping them much?
 
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